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'Indian education for all' failed this year, but it's on interim study list

Mar 17, 2016 By Christina George, Staff Writer

The years-long effort to establish an American Indian Education for All Act in Wyoming isn't over.

Wyoming Department of Education consultant Rob Black said he has been tasked with working on various American Indian education issues, including the proposed legislation that would bring more tribal studies into the classroom.

"One of the things that we are focusing on is Indian education for all," he said at recent a legislative Select Committee on Tribal Relations meeting.

"We are trying to focus it, it can go in a lot of directions."

The committee met March 1 in Cheyenne to determine issues it plans to study in the interim.

First year for bill

For years, schools on the reservation have tried to get Wyoming to establish and Indian Education for All Act.

The committee came up with a bill for the 2016 legislative session that would have required teachers and administrators to receive a minimum of three hours of tribal studies within the first four years of employment in a school district. An education tribal liaison would have been appointed to develop and make suitable materials for tribal studies.

But the committee chose not to sponsor the bill due to concern it wasn't ready, said State Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, whose legislative district consists largely of the reservation.

"We were on the track, but then we weren't on the right track," Allen said.

Montana has it

Jason Baldes, director of the Wind River Native Advocacy Center, said he is familiar with similar legislation passed in Montana.

He said he spent 10 years in Bozeman,Mont., and witnessed how American Indian education improved relations with college students and young people.

"It was incredible to see young people understand and participate in some of our celebratory song and dance," Baldes said.

Other interim topics

The committee also agreed it would study a new component of the federal Violence Against Women Act that puts focus on American Indian women.

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said the change authorizes tribal officers to arrest any individual on the reservation who has been involved in the abuse of an American Indian woman, including non-tribal members.

"We need to make sure the committee understands it in the event we see concerns or conflicts," Larsen said. "We need understanding of how that rolls out and the legal aspects of it."

Health care will be another issue discussed in the interim. This includes the 1115 Medicaid waiver, which Larsen said should be ready for implementation in July. The waiver will reimburse health care organizations for uncompensated care of tribal members and expand Medicaid coverage to more than 3,000 uninsured tribal members.

Other interim topics include infrastructure needs, water development, telecommunication issues and child services of the Department of Family Services.

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